Thursday, March 15, 2012
Led by captain Jean Beliveau, the 1965-66 Montreal Canadiens were the defending Stanley Cup champions, having broken the string of three consecutive championships won by the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1962 to 1964.
Montreal started out well enough in 1965-66, winning their first three before a loss to the Chicago Black Hawks. After a tie with the Detroit Red Wings, the Canadiens met the Maple Leafs for the first time on November 4, 1965, which went the way of Montreal by a comfortable 5-1 score. A win and a tie against the Boston Bruins followed before their next game against the Maple Leafs, which ended in a 3-3 deadlock.
Another win against Chicago followed by their second tie of the season against Detroit preceded a third meeting with Toronto on November 18th. The Maple Leafs were led by captain George Armstrong and entered the game at 3-6-2 and needed a win to keep pace with the Canadiens, who were now at 6-2-3, already 7 points ahead in the standings. Trailing 1-0 after two periods, Toronto shocked the fans at the Forum with a trio of third period goals to take the game 3-1 and stay within 5 points of the Canadiens.
The Canadiens rebounded with a win over the New York Rangers 9-3 followed by a 3-2 loss the next night after having to travel to Boston. Montreal then went on a run of four wins, which began with a 2-1 win at Toronto, a 4-4 tie in Boston and three more wins to cap off a eight game undefeated streak, which was comprised of 7 wins and a tie to push the Canadiens record to 14-4-4.
The streak was ended by the Maple Leafs on December 16th, who again won in Montreal by a score of 3-2. The Maple Leafs were now in the midst of a ten game undefeated streak of their own, which improved their record from 7-10-3 on December 5th to 15-10-5 by New Year's Day.
The loss to Toronto began a period of five weeks mediocre play for Montreal, as they would close out 1965 by alternating wins and losses for four games before dropping another to the now streaking Maple Leafs on December 29th, again by a 3-2 score, only this time at Maple Leaf Gardens.
The start of the new year looked promising for Montreal with a pair of wins over the Rangers, giving Montreal 40 points at 18-8-4, while Toronto stood at 15-10-5, just five points back after trailing by 12 on December 12th. Montreal was not out of their funk however, as they dropped six of their next 10, including a 6-0 pasting by the Maple Leafs on January 13th at home, which ended a three game losing streak for Toronto.
Montreal finally found their game beginning on January 29th with a 6-2 win over the Rangers, followed by a 3-1 win over Boston and a 5-4 decision over the Maple Leafs, including the final three goals of the game to come from behind to win. A tie with Detroit and a win over the Rangers, pushing their record to 8-1 against the Blueshirts, extended their run to five games without a loss.
A loss, a tie and a win preceded another meeting with Toronto, who took a 3-1 win at home.
Chicago, New York, Boston, New York again and Detroit all fell to the Canadiens before a tie with Toronto ran Montreal's latest streak to six games without a loss and gave them 70 points from a 31-16-8 record. The Maple Leafs broke the streak with a 4-0 win in Montreal, their fourth win of the season at the Forum as they were now in the midst of another hot streak which would stretch to 9 games without a loss from 7 wins and a pair of ties. The win over Montreal left Toronto at 26-20-9 and 61 points.
Montreal would win three of their next five before their next meeting with Toronto on this date in 1966 at Toronto. Their 76 points leading the Maple Leafs by 7.
Bobby Rousseau would open the scoring with his 26th goal of the season just nine seconds into the game followed by J. C. Tremblay's goal just 31 seconds later giving Montreal a 2-0 lead less than a minute into the game. Claude Larose added another goal at 16:37 before Ron Ellis got Toronto on the board 30 seconds later to close out the first period at 3-1 for the visitors.
At the five minute mark of the second period, Beliveau's 25th goal of the season pushed the Montreal lead back to three with the first power play goal of the game to chase Johnny Bower from the Maple Leafs goal. Dave Keon struck back for Toronto just 20 second later to shrink the lead back to 3, only to have Beliveau respond after just another 23 seconds play to rudely greet Toronto's new goaltender Bruce Gamble after just 43 seconds of action. Ralph Backstrom's 18th goal of the season arrived 22 ticks of the clock later to set a new NHL record for the fastest four goals, all within one minute and five seconds.
The Canadiens would add one more score in the third period to make the final 7-2 in favor of Montreal. They would defeat the Rangers yet again before losses at Chicago and home to Toronto before they would finish the season with a five game winning streak to end the year at 41-21-8, good for 90 points and a first place finish during the regular season, 8 points up on Chicago and 11 ahead of the Maple Leafs, although Toronto would take the season series 5-7-2, including 5 wins in Montreal.
Rather than the expected 1 versus 4 and 2 against 3 pairings in the playoffs, the format of the day for some reason paired #1 against #3, and #2 versus #4, setting up a Montreal vs. Toronto first round matchup.
Montreal took Game 1 at home by a score of 4-3 after Beliveau's goal with 2:12 remaining. Gump Worsley shut out the Maple Leafs in Game 2 as a pair of third period goals by Montreal were enough for a 2-0 win at the Forum. After Toronto jumped out to a 2-0 lead after one at home in Game 3, Montreal responded with three goals in the second and two more in the third to win going away 5-2 and then closed out the series with a 4-1 win following a penalty filled first period that saw a dozen majors, six misconducts and a pair of minors in a huge brawl just 3:37 into the game, in which Toronto again led after one, 1-0, before Montreal scored a pair of power play goals by Tremblay in the second and a shorthanded goal and another power play goal in the third to advance to the finals.
Montreal would eventually win their second consecutive Stanley Cup after falling behind 2 games to none before roaring back with four straight wins to take the title.
The 1965-66 Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens
Today's featured jersey is a 1965-66 Montreal Canadiens Jean Beliveau jersey. Believau was a ten time Stanley Cup champion with Montreal in his 20 years with the club. In addition to the Conn Smythe, Beliveau also won the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion in 1956 and the Hart Trophy as MVP in 1956 and 1964. Had the Conn Smythe Trophy been in existence prior to the 1965 finals, odds are that Beliveau would have won at least one other one, particularly in 1956 when he led the Canadiens in playoff scoring with 12 goals and 19 points in just ten games.
A white Canadiens jerseys first arrived on the scene in 1935-36 and was worn only for games against the Red Wings. After some changes in striping, the first red shoulder yoke appeared in 1941-42. After three seasons, a new white sweater with a blue band trimmed in red around the chest arrived, which was used for three seasons until a return to the white jersey with the red shoulder yoke, which remains in use to this day.
Today's first video is a terrific find, footage of Beliveau being the first man to ever receive the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1965.
Next is the Top Ten Conn Smythe Trophy winners and a look at each of their spectacular playoff performances.